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A meeting of global science – the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2018

14 August 2018

“There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science” – Anton Chekhov (1860-1904).

Each year since 1951, Nobel Laureates and selected early-career researchers, put forward by their universities and accompanying letters of support; meet in the small German town of Lindau to exchange knowledge, ideas and experience. This year, I was fortunate enough to be one of them.

Global Science was a theme that resonated throughout this extraordinary meeting. Firstly, through the participants: 600 young scientists from 84 countries converged on Lindau, along with 39 winners of the Nobel Prize – a quintessentially international award for scientific advancement.

A week’s programme of lectures and intimate discussions between us ‘young scientists’ and the Nobel Laureates was led from the start with an emphasis on the importance of globalising science. In Elizabeth Blackburn’s opening lecture, she spoke of a “Global Science Legacy” – a call to improve science sharing. Professor Blackburn tells us that science must play a pivotal role in tackling the greatest challenges facing humanity, and the only way to do that effectively and efficiently is for research to be inclusive, interactive and uncompetitive. “Scientists must not be modest about their power to educate and provide evidence on which to make important decisions with global impacts”, she said.

It might sound a little over-the-top, but the Lindau Meeting is an experience that inspires scientists to view their work differently: rather than seeing it as a drop in a vast ocean of literature that lends a nudge toward a distant discovery, researchers see instead the potential to change lives by pursuing a single scientific question, perhaps with only a few simple, yet artfully curated, experiments.

We benefitted not only from the direct infusion of wisdom from the Laureates, but also vicariously through the discussions they stimulated; their presence a catalyst for our networking. The Meeting is engineered to facilitate hundreds of new global scientific collaborations, all boosted by their origin.

Global science not only applies to us as scientists but also to the public throughout the world and most importantly how they understand the research we communicate. This was highlighted in the closing discussion of the “post-factual era” in which we now live. We were encouraged to engage more with the public, as ambassadors not just for our own research niche, but for all science. In doing so, we may restore trust in science and pave the way toward better practice and policy worldwide for health and the environment.

I came away from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting feeling part of a global academic community, proud to face scientific challenges for the benefit of all. For your own taste of this experience, you could do two things. Firstly, you could visit the idyllic town of Lindau. Secondly, you could visit this link which contains video recordings of each of the inspirational talks and discussions: